Once Again, Alabama Swims Upstream

While proponents of the infamous RAISE/PREP bill continue to insist that Alabama should begin using the VAM (Value Added Model) to evaluate teachers, legislators around the South are going in just the opposite direction

A recent article in Education Week titled Southern Lawmakers Reconsidering Role of Test Scores in Teacher Evaluations shows that a number of our sister states are considering cutting back on their emphasis on VAM as a way to evaluate teachers.

It says in part:  “After years of fierce debates over effectiveness and fairness of the methodology, several southern lawmakers are looking to minimize the weight placed on so called value-added measures, derived from how much students’ test scores changed, in teacher-evaluation systems.

In part because these states are home to some of the weakest teachers unions in the country, southern policymakers were able to push past arguments that the state tests were ill suited for teacher-evaluation purposes and that the system would punish teachers for working in the toughest classrooms. States like Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee, became some of the earliest and strongest adopters of the practice. But in the past few weeks, lawmakers from Baton Rouge, La., to Atlanta have introduced bills to limit the practice.

Virginia state school superintendent Steven Staples explained why his state is re-thinking VAM.

“What we’ve found is that through our experience [with the NCLB waivers], we have had some unintended outcomes. The biggest one is that there’s an over-reliance on a single measure; too many of our divisions defaulted to the statewide standardized test … and their feedback was that because that was a focus [of the federal government], they felt they needed to emphasize that, ignoring some other factors. It also drove a real emphasis on a summative, final evaluation. And it resulted in our best teachers running away from our most challenged.”

Since the Alabama lawmakers pushing the RAISE/PREP bill that calls for using VAM seem to think that all good ideas come from outside the state, perhaps they should check in with folks in Tennessee, Louisiana, Georgia and Virginia before continuing to promote a bad idea.

 

 

 

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